Was an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Really Found in Indiana?
I feel like in this day and age, after social media has been such a major part of our day-to-day lives for more than a decade, and the internet in general even longer, we should have learned by now that not everything we see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, or wherever is the truth. Yet, fake news stories still get blindly shared because people don't take the time to do even the tiniest bit of investigation to find out if what they are sharing with their friends and family is actually real. This story is another example of one of those instances.
CLAIM: Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Spotted in Evansville
Recently, the post below showed up in the Evansville And Henderson Yard sale / Garage sale !! Facebook group. In case it's a little hard to read, it claims that an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake was found in Evansville and that people who live here should be checking their surroundings, " toilets, openings in pipes, behind doors, potted plants etc." because it is "very deadly" (opposed to just the regular type of deadly). Then, it encourages whoever is reading it to, "SPREAD THE WORD ALERT EVERYONE AND SAVE A LIFE!!" Insert heavy sigh here.
TRUTH: This is a Fake Story Being Spread All Around the World
When I first saw this post shared in my news feed, a few red flags popped up. First is the name of the person who wrote it, Helen Keller. I'm not saying there isn't another person out there named Helen Keller that isn't the famous blind and deaf author from the early 1900s, but if you're going to use a fake name to create a fake story on Facebook, I think you could try a little harder.
Pictured: Helen Keller sliding into Teddy Roosevelt's DMs on Instagram.
The second red flag was the use of the term, "Silver Alert." In Indiana, Silver Alerts are used when an adult or child goes missing and is believed to be in danger. Not when a dangerous animal, or in this case, reptile is spotted somewhere.
Another aspect that led me to think this story wasn't real was how "Helen Keller" laid out her text. Notice "#evansville" is on its own line? Do you write status updates like that? No. No, you don't. Nobody does. Or at least they shouldn't #grammerpolice. I suspected this was done intentionally so they could easily swap out different city names in order to share them in groups affiliated with whatever city they're trying to spread the story in.
Not wanting to assume I figured this out all by myself, I did some research to see if what I thought was true. Crazy idea, right?
I searched, "silver alert eastern diamondback rattlesnake" and in 0.45 seconds, Google gave me several results that validated my suspicions. One of those was Full Fact. A non-profit group in England made up of independent fact-checkers who scour the internet looking for fake stories like this one and expose it for the lie that it is.
According to researcher, Tony Thompson, this claim had also been making the rounds in England and Ireland within the past month or so using the exact same pictures and the exact same text, except that "#evansville" was replaced with whatever city they were trying to spread the lie in.
Using a reverse image search, Thompson says the pictures used in the post are at least two years old and that they follow the same M.O., whoever creates them posts them in "multiple community buy/sell groups" hoping they'll take off. Obviously, it works.
If Something Seems Suspicious, It Probably Is
To play Devil's advocate for just a moment, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes are native to North America but are predominantly found "in the pinelands of Florida, the coastal plains of North Carolina and southern Mississippi through eastern Louisiana," according to the Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. So, it's not out of the realm of possibility that one could have somehow found its way to southern Indiana, but the chances are slim.
At the end of the day, the point is, if you see something on Facebook, or any other social media platform, and your gut instinct is telling you something doesn't seem right about it before you share it, take a couple of minutes to Google part or all of the text in the status to see if your instinct is right. I'll bet that more times than not, it will be.